RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 20, 2014

TODAY: Russia takes control of Crimean naval bases; Ukraine alleges war crimes after soldier dies, plans withdrawal from Russia’s customs union; Navalny writes on how to punish Russia; Britain wants Europe to move away from Russian energy; E.U. and U.S. sanctions are widely criticised; Sechin buys up Rosneft shares.

Ukraine’s naval headquarters’ in both Sevastopol and also in Bakhchisaray were taken by Russian troops yesterday, with no casualties.  Click here for footage of the takeover.  Ukraine had already accused Russia of committing a war crime this week after a junior officer allegedly was killed by masked and unknown forces.  Ukraine has begun to dismantle its Russian ties, pulling troops from Crimea, planning to withdraw from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and moving to implement entry visas for Russian visitors.  A letter to The Times unpacks the ‘myth’ of Crimea being a ‘gift’ to Ukraine in 1954: ‘In fact, Ukraine, at the request of the Kremlin, rescued Crimea, whose economy had been destroyed by war and whose native population had been deported by Stalin.’  Opposition leader Alexei Navalny has a piece in the New York Times, written from his current house arrest, advising that the most effective ways to punish Vladimir Putin would be to freeze oligarch assets and seize their property; and to crackdown on international corruption cases which implicate Russia.  A journalist for RFE/RL says he was kidnapped by unknown forces in Crimea earlier this week.

Britain is pushing for the E.U. to support a new energy security plan that moves away from dependence on Russian supplies, and NATO wants European countries to boost defense spending to protect against what it sees as inevitable further threats from Russia.  Europe is planning to take only mild further measures, extending its blacklist of Russian and Crimean officials; the U.S. is looking to expand its current sanctions in the wake of criticism that it hasn’t gone far enough against Russia.  The WSJ says the U.S. has made a mistake in failing to target Russian companies.  The two sides locked horns at yesterday’s UN Security Council meeting.  Bloomberg says U.S. companies operating in Russia should review their evacuation plans and be wary of growing tensions.

Igor Sechin is buying up shares in his own company, Rosneft, after their price went down.  Russian architects are attempting to save Moscow’s 160-meter-tall Shukhov television tower (‘Russia’s answer to the Eiffel Tower’), which faces possible demolition.

PHOTO: Crimean pro-Russian self-defense forces storming a Ukrainian Navy headquarters in Sevastopol to clear out Ukrainian servicemen on Wednesday. (Andrew Lubimov / AP)